Saturday, 4 December, 2021

BTRC cuts int’l call rate by 33pc

Bangladesh Telecommunication Regula-tory Commission (BTRC) has slashed the minimum termination rate of international incoming voice calls by one-third due to a drastic fall in revenue income from the sector in recent years.

The adjustment will help to boost revenue from international calls, the regulator hopes.

The floor price of international incoming calls was fixed at $0.004 or Tk 0.344 per minute from the previous price of around $0.006 or Tk 0.51 per minute.

The telecom regulatory body has fixed the new rate at the request of the International Gateway (IGW) Operators Forum (IOF) amid a drastic increase in the use of internet-based apps for calls and gradual fall in international voice calls.

Posts and Telecommunications Minister Mustafa Jabbar told Daily Sun that they have decided to reduce the international voice call rate as the number of calls has decreased drastically.

“Not only the international calls but also the volume of local voice calls has dropped due to the increasing popularity of app-based calls,” he said.

“The IGWs, who deal with overseas calls, are in a difficult situation now. The call rate has been reduced to support the IGW operators,” he added.

Earlier in a letter on October 7 in 2020, the IOF requested the government to reduce the International Call Termination Rate (ICTR) from $0.006 to $0.001. Later the IOF sent another letter for reducing the ICTR rate to $0.0025.

But, the BTRC on October 12 fixed the ICTR to $0.004.

According to BTRC, primarily the concerned department of the commission has suggested reducing ICTR from $0.006 to $0.005 but the rate was fixed at the incumbent price so that the commission does not need to re-fix the call rate within a short period time.

BTRC vice-chairman Subrata Roy Maitra told Daily Sun that revenue income from international voice calls has dropped sharply due to a fall in the number of voice calls.

“As the number of voice calls dropped, we have to cut renewal fees of IWG license as their businesses are struggling,” he said.

According to the IGW operators, they claimed that major portions of the international calls are now being made through WhatsApp, Messenger, Skype, Viber and Imo.

BTRC data shows that the government’s average earnings per month from such international calls was Tk 1.48 billion in May 2009 - September 2014 against 1.31 billion minutes of calls, Tk 1.03 billion from September 2014 to February 2018 against 2.48 minutes of calls, Tk 0.51 billion from February 2018 to February 2020 against 1.02 billion minutes of calls and Tk 0.13 billion from February 2020 to August 2021 against 0.72 billion minutes of calls.

Currently, there are 24 IGW operators, of which, six lost their licences for failing to pay unpaid dues.

The IGW operators say that the number of legal voice calls has currently been reduced to about 20 million minutes a day as compared to around 100 million minutes a few years back.

The IGW business started in Bangladesh in 2008 through an open auction. Four companies got the licence, including the state-owned BTCL.

After amending the ILDTS act in 2010, another 25 new companies got the licence in 2012. As a result, an unbalanced competition was created in the sector as many licences are issued simultaneously without verifying the demand. Later, more licence was issued in 2016 and 2018 and boost the business.

Due to lack of monitoring, billions of taka from the government revenue has been embezzled by a syndicate of IGW operators in collaboration with a section of officials of state-run Bangladesh Telecommunications Company Limited (BTCL) and BTRC.

The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has been investigating the issue as the government has lost huge revenues due to anomalies.

The ACC also asked the BTRC to provide detailed accounts on IGW’s foreign currency income from 2012 to 2018 against their international incoming calls on BTRC’s fixed call rates.